3 days of gaming insight from GDC Europe ’14

15 August 2014
Billy Kennedy

Author: Billy Kennedy

Using real world needs of users to influence effective and simple designs.

GDC Conference PassEarlier this week I had the great pleasure to attend and represent Spotless as GDC Europe ’14, held in Cologne. This event, which precedes the larger and more well known Gamescom event, brings together games producers, developers and journalists from Europe and further afield for three days of talks, networking and discussions.

The first talk of the week that I attended was Game a Week: How to Succeed, Fail and Learn by Adriel Wallick – an indie game developer based in Boston. She emphasised the advantages of making smaller, self contained experiences as a method of learning the craft of game creation. Far too often people get too bogged down in their grand idea for a game and never actually bring anything to completion.

While there I was lucky enough to attend two talks by one of my favourite game Publishers, Paradox Interactive – creators of the grand strategy games Crusader Kings 2 and Europa Universalis. The first, Clash of Clones: The Importance of Standing Out  by Fredrik Wester, CEO of Paradox Interactive, which focused on giving your game a clear identity in order to stand out from the crowd. Fredrik, while a gamer, comes from a more business based background so it was really interesting to see his take on how games are marketed.

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The second Paradox talk I managed to attend was from the designer of one of my favourite games currently – Crusader Kings II (Over 120 hours logged!), and was about how emergent stories can be promoted with in games systems – and this might interact with more traditional game storytelling in the future. Emergent gaming has been around a long time – most games that lack a traditional story have an emergent element – e.g. The Sims, Crusader Kings, Minecraft etc, however it’s only relatively recently been picked up as a popular subject within the game design community who for years were more interested in cutscenes and level design to tell a story. Emergent story allows the systems behind the game to tell a story.

Ironically, directly after this was a talk titled “Cinematic Story-driven games, and what they mean to Remedy” by Kyle Rowley of Remedy, creators of Max Payne and Alan Wake. It was definitely interesting to see the opposite side of the coin and the argument for a more traditional game story structure, so kudos to the conference organisers from scheduling it this way.

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It would be almost impossible to mention every speaker who gave a great talk at GDC this year, but special shout outs must go to Charles Cecil of Revolution Software who gave an amazing retrospective on the making of the original Broken Sword – an absolute for many gamers who grew up in the 90s, and a game that’s been re-released to much acclaim on iOS, Android and portable devices since.

The final talk that I attended was one that is very close of all of our hearts here at Spotless, Presented by Celia Hodent of Epic Games: Developing UX Practices at Epic Games. Celia gave a great run down of some of the basics of UX and design psychology and how these can be applied to the games field to provide better experiences in games without necessarily diluting the difficult or challenge of the game experience. It was great to see so many games developers and designers attending the talk, as we feel that there is so much to be gained from applying UX practices to the game design field.

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We’re all super excited by all of the announcements from both GDC and Gamescom, and will hopefully see many of you there again next year!

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